Picture this: an ape who can tell you about their daily activities, emotions, wants and needs. An ape who loves Tarzan movies, paints, makes tools, plays hide and seek and Skypes! No, this is not make-believe. This exists! And the best part is you can experience it right here in Des Moines at the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary.

The Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (IPLS) is probably one of my all-time favorite places. Not just because I’m an animal lover, but because of the groundbreaking language research being done. Kanzi, a bonobo at the facility, uses over 500 lexigram symbols on his tablet to string words together into simple sentences and even asks questions.

Kanzi’s remarkable talents have gained world-wide attention. From the Oprah Show, TIME Magazine, BBC, Anderson Cooper, to even playing music with Peter Gabriel. Most recently, I was able to sit-in on a Skype session with a journalist from Finland. She sent Kanzi a backpack full of surprises (a bonobo’s favorite word…along with M&M’s and ball). Kanzi would discover each item and report back to the journalist what he found. Experiencing this interaction is truly mesmerizing. Awe and wonder are the only words I can find to describe what it feels like to witness another species communicating with you in English.



Recently, the IPLS opened its doors to the public so you can witness and learn about the amazing capabilities of our closest ancestors. (Fun fact: we share 98.7% of the same genetic blueprint!) No two tours are identical and for $14 - $20 you can experience the awe of apes. This is an absolute must-do in Greater Des Moines….the hidden gem of hidden gems!

For tour information visit: www.iowaprimatelearning.org